Here is what the Bradt Travel Guide says about them. “Long-term residents in Bangladesh may eventually bump into someone who has membership in “The Boat Consortium”, a group of expatriates who have purchased and refurbished 3 vessels explicitly for taking leisurely cruises around the city. Generally these kinds of events will be by invitation only and involve significant quantities of alcohol.”
Well, I’ve now had the privilege of receiving one invitation, and I can confirm that all information above is accurate to the last detail.
One of my friends, whose extraordinary organizational skills and zest for life I already mentioned when I recounted our trip to Barisal on the occasion of International Woman’s Day, happens to belong to the Boat Consortium, and she brought together a group of sixteen ladies, the other night. We were to meet at 4 Pm, in order to reach Bashundara, where the boat is moored at the moment (the water being high after the monsoon), as early as possible. Night falls around 6.30 PM, here. And each of us was to bring something to munch on, or to drink.
I had no idea what to expect, and was pleasantly surprised when I saw the colorful boat waiting for us.
The upper deck is protected from the sun, and the floor entirely covered with large mattresses. One after the other, we walked the plank with the help of one of our boat men holding a long bamboo pole, hopped on board, took our shoes off and climbed the ladder. Our captain started the boat, and off we went !
Anyone who knows Bangladesh will tell you the country is best seen from a boat. Once on the river, you forget the ever-present filth, chaos, and pollution of Dhaka. You even forget the depressing statistics about over-population. Traffic and concrete give way to water, luxuriant vegetation, and the tranquil, peaceful feeling one experiences floating slowly down a river. It’s pure magic.
Of course, the occasional sign sticking out of the water reminds you that this piece of land has been claimed and soon, the water from which it emerges will disappear, and ugly buildings will be erected.
As you can see in the picture on the right, the ground is basically sand : it makes you wonder how these buildings will fare in the long term…
But we were there to have fun, and already, bags and coolers were being unzipped. Soon, plastic containers crowded the middle of the deck, along with bottles of wine and beer cans.
One of us had brought a Mean Martini cocktail that put us all in a great mood, and our host, never short of ideas, launched a game to break the ice and help the few newcomers to Dhaka get to know everyone. We each were to say a few facts about one of our friends. Easier said than done, in some cases, but it worked (along with the Mean Martini). Soon, everyone was mingling.
We spent the following three hours eating diverse delicacies, from Indian Chats to fresh spring rolls, chicken satay, baba ganoush, quiche and even some fantastic homemade cheese cup cakes.
Occasionally, we’d float past another boat, and exchange joyous greetings. One of them had Bollywood music blaring, and young people dancing on the deck.
And so, slowly, the gorgeous scenery lost its verdant colors, and the day faded and turned into night.
At some point (don’t ask me when) our captain turned the boat around. Lamps glowing in the dark, we continued to glide on the water, until we reached the point where the cars were waiting for us.
We were home by 9.30 PM, well fed, some of us more than a little tipsy, and ready to do it again very soon. Thank you, D.